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Market is a tasty part of Quantico health push

When he wants to prolong his bedtime routine, 3-year-old Blake Pfeffer doesn’t ask for a drink or a book—he requests carrots.

The preschooler can’t get enough of the vegetables. At a recent farmers market at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Blake stood at a wooden table, carefully picking out a bunch of fat, orange carrots.

“Once the kids are part of choosing the vegetables, they own it,” said Blake’s mom, Alycia.

The Pfeffer family moved to the base about three weeks ago from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California.

There, the family traveled to the nearby town of Joshua Tree each week to shop the farmers market for fresh produce.

But now that they’re in Virginia, Alycia has already learned to avoid the traffic on Interstate 95 and didn’t want to leave the base in north Stafford County.

So she was thrilled to discover that there is a farmers market on base. That market started last summer and is part of a pilot program aimed at improving the health of service members and their families.

The Department of Defense launched the Healthy Base Initiative, which combats obesity and tobacco use, in 14 pilot sites last year. Quantico is one of two Marine Corps bases selected for the program.

At Quantico, the initiative includes a farmers market, fitness classes, cooking lessons, children’s fitness camps and resources for people who want to quit smoking.

The farmers market started briefly last season, and so far includes four vendors. Organizers chose some of the most popular vendors from the Spotsylvania Farmers Market, said Elizabeth Borst, who manages the Spotsylvania market.

Quantico shoppers can choose from meat, baked goods, vegetables and fruits.

The market is located between the commissary and McDonald’s, in a stretch of road known as “errand row.”

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, Marines and their families stop by the market to pick up fresh food. About 300 customers come each week, Borst said.

Most are young moms with children, like the Pfeffer family. But some Marines do stop by on their lunch breaks.

Capt. Nicole Fiedler picked up some berries and vegetables and said that the on-base market gives her the chance to support local farmers.

“And I was very pleasantly surprised by the prices,” she said.

As shoppers sampled cucumber slices and freshly baked bread, a steady line of cars went through the drive-thru of the McDonald’s nearby.

“This effort isn’t about taking away unhealthy options, it’s about ensuring there are healthy options to choose from,” said Lauren King, a registered dietitian with the Semper Fit program on base.

That fitness-based effort has teamed up with the Healthy Base Initiative to offer cooking courses and a fitness camp for children.

Organizers of the Healthy Base Initiative wanted to target the children of service members, to try and promote healthy habits early.

“ When a family is healthy, the service member is more effective at his or her job,” said Lt. Commander Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Department of Defense.

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

WANT TO GO?

The Quantico Farmers Market is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, in the parking lot of the commissary. It is open to anyone allowed on Marine Corps Base Quantico, including service members, their families and employees of the FBI.

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